This Wolf Eyes article was written by Michael Liggins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Kiran Grewal
Michigan based experimental noise legends Wolf Eyes have created a prolific body of work since their beginnings in the mid-nineties. Together with official LPs, they have released a few hundred CD-R and cassette albums and have been involved in an overwhelming amount of side projects. In a recent interview with the Miami New Times, band member John Olson stated that noise as a genre was over “Completely, 100 per cent”, blaming his disillusionment on the amount of amateurs now trying to transcend the scene through “playing by themselves trying to be geniuses”. Wolf Eyes now claim to be a Trip Metal band, a term coined by a fan, which the band have adopted to better describe their sound. ‘I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces’, the band’s debut with Third Man Records, is their first release since 2013’s ‘No Answer: Lower Floors’ and it exhibits a craft that is too self-conscious to be labelled as ‘noise’. Each sound has been purposefully arranged across six tracks of menacing guitars and hypnotic electronic landscapes.
Album opener ‘Catching the Rich Train’ starts with a slow two-note piano, like the tolling of a funeral bell. Its menace doesn’t relent for the duration of the song. Echoed vocals ricochet against rattlesnake shuffling electronic frequencies. Meditative guitar drones and the use of various woodwind instruments give the track an almost primitive desert blues quality in its tone.
A bass groove and persistent beat underpins ‘Twister Nightfall’s squalling drones. The vocals recall a Birthday Party era Nick Cave coupled with lengthy sustained guitar notes. Follow up track ‘T.O.D.D’ opens with chainsaw guitars over a slow train like rhythm, leading on to looping feedback effects creating a disorientating listening experience.
‘Enemy Ladder’ is the most accessible cut on the record. With its pummelling voltaic rock and cranked amps, it’s a release from the entrancing textures of the previous tracks. Its heavy overdriven rock alone justifies Wolf Eyes’ place alongside the roster of raw Rock and Roll on Third Man Records. The band are not compromising their sound for a new label however as final track ‘Cynthia Vortex AKA Trip Memory Illness’ shows. Featuring an ominous three-note repetition underneath dry guitar lines, spluttering from what sounds like a discarded transistor radio, the song eventually disintegrates bringing the album to a close.
‘I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces’ is an absorbing minimalist record, which benefits from an absence of the intense extremities some artists within experimental music utilise. Wolf Eyes dealt with some challenging times during the completion of this album, including the death of Nate Young’s brother Peter Bradley Young who painted the album cover. The band says, “This record does not try to directly reflect these intense and difficult times, but it cannot help being directly influenced by them”. With the duration of time between album releases showing signs of slowing down, we can only speculate which new directions their freshly designated Trip Metal journey will take them.
‘I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces’ is out now via Third Man Records